2019 marks 50 years in business for Ray and Reg Collingwood owners of Collingwood Bros. on the Spatsizi Plateau in Northern British Columbia. Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is one of British Columbia's largest and most significant parks. Spatsizi Park and Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve were created in 1975. The Park is located 200 air miles north of Smithers, British Columbia. This area, covers over 3600 square miles, is not accessible by road; the only access is via air or an extensive journey by river boat, pack horse or foot.
Spatsizi encompasses three major vegetation zones: alpine tundra, sub-alpine spruce-willow-birch and boreal white and black spruce forest. The park spreads across two broad physiographic regions: Spatsizi Plateau and Eaglenest Range. The Plateau is a rolling upland that extends in a broad curve from Mt. Brock in the northwest, to Tuaton lake in the southeast. Elevation in the Plateau ranges from 1600m to 2000m. The mountains to the southwest are the Eaglenest Range. The Eaglenest Mountains are rugged and alpine glaciation produced cirques, tarns, and hanging valleys. Phenomenal Stone Sheep habitat. The highest peak is Mt. Will at 2500m. The river drainage includes the Spatsizi River and Upper Stikine. Spatsizi is a Tahltan Native word meaning, "Land of the Red Goat". The legend was given to the mountain goats that rolled in the rich iron oxide soil, changing their normally white coats to red. Historically, the Tahltan natives were the only inhabitants of the Spatsizi region until 1929. In 1929, the Hyland Brothers established a post on the Spatsizi River to trade with the native fur trappers.
With a rich history and an unbeatable track record in the industry I knew when it came time to book my Western Canadian Moose and Mountain Caribou hunt that there was only one option, Collingwood Bros... September 16th found my dad and I at the airport in Minneapolis making our first of three plane rides, after touching down in Vancouver and a seven hour layover we finally made it to Smithers where we were greeted and taken to our hotel room by Jamie who is Collingwood Bros. expeditor and handles getting the hunters to and from the airports, float dock, and hotels. After a long day of travel we crashed in the hotel for the night and were met again the next morning by Jamie for our two hour float plane ride into base camp. The scenery was simply amazing on the way in as was the base camp complete with separate hunter’s cabins, linen beds, and showers, running water, electricity and wood burning stove. We were more than impressed at the level of service and accommodations considering how remote the Laslui lake base camp is. As we began to get settled in it was decided that I would be leaving the five star accommodations for a few days and be flown out to a wall tent spike camp for moose while my dad hunted caribou from base camp. Willy my guide and I awoke the next morning in the wall tent and devised a plan for a short morning walk before breakfast to take a look at a swampy drainage about an hour away. We would then come back have breakfast and head out for the day, it sounded like a good warm up for the legs so off we went. Upon reaching the edge of the thick timber we could clearly see the swampy area it was about 150 yards wide and close to two miles long. Willy decided to make a few cow calls to see if anyone was home, it took less than a minute and we both heard what sounded like a deep grunt from a bull several miles away. I immediately began to get excited about what could be a first morning bull encounter. Willy said the grunt sounded like a good bull and we should setup just encase, I found a few small pines to use as a rest in the middle of the swampy bog and Willy setup a few yards behind me and began to call. The large bull answered us every time and began to close the distance rather quickly, after a few more grunts and some antler raking on the pines he finally stepped out about a mile away. I couldn’t believe my eyes it was a shooter bull on the first morning of the “warm up the legs” walk. It quickly got real as the bull closed the distance as Willy continued to aggressively call. It was at 40 yards that I finally had my shot as the bull turned broadside and absorbed the first shot headed towards higher dryer ground, I quickly fired again hitting the bull for the second time on the front shoulder. Willy and I immediately celebrated as we saw the bull leaning up against several large pine trees; our excitement was quickly dampened as the bull walked in reverse for about 40 yards and finally tipped over right back into the swampy bog. Now standing in what seemed like quick sand with wet boots we began the capeing, skinning, and quartering of the monster bull. We struggled to roll him over but managed to spend the rest of the next two days hauling all the meat, cape, and antlers in seven trips about a mile each trip down to the lake where we could load everything up on to the float plane. Tired and sore Willy and I spent a few more cold wet nights in the tent before we could be picked up due to high wind and low clouds. The comforts of base camp, a hot shower and a good meal never tasted so good, we spent the next few days fleshing and salting the cape before regrouping and heading out for Mountain Caribou.
While I was hunting moose dad spent several days on horseback glassing and checking many of the high alpine basins during the day for a shooter bull as well as cruising the lake in the evening. Several caribou where spotted but no shooters where located. Ray then decided to move both dad and I up to Worry Creek camp which consisted of a basic plywood cabin and wood burning stove but was comfortable. We took the boat across Laslui lake and then rode horses about two hours to Worry Creek, where we now had dads guide Clark and a our Wrangler Austin along with Willy to help us finish up the next leg of the trip. Above timber line was simply amazing it was the largest mountain top plateau I had ever seen it went on forever with no trees anywhere in sight. We spotted close to 50 caribou our first evening up there and a few larger bulls we wanted to see up close in the morning. With the weather beginning to change we decide to make our next day a full blown marathon day. We awoke camp at 5:00 am had breakfast, saddled the horses and packed lunches for what would soon turn into a 13 hour horseback ride. We began to pick apart every little drainage we could see looking for two shooter bulls we had to have seen close to 75 caribou when we finally spotted a large herd of 50+ caribou several miles away that looked to have a few large bulls in the herd. We quickly devised a game plan to try and close the distance without running into the grizzly and two cubs along the way that we had spotted between us and the caribou. It took several hours to finally close the distance but once we hoped off the horses I couldn’t believe it we were inside 100 yards of one of the large caribou that was now lying down. I quickly belly crawled up to a small knob where the caribou stood up and I made a quick 70 shot to put the bull down. We quickly moved up and put my dad into position for his shot as we crested the next ridge we quickly spotted 20 caribou with one large bull in the group my dad now had his bull down after a 225 yard shot. It was truly amazing to cover that much wide open land and now have two large bulls down only a few hundred yards apart. With the wind beginning to pick up and the snow/hail pellets beginning to fly we began the life-size skinning of the hides and loading the quarters on to the pack horses. We rode the last several hours in the dark back to the Worry Creek Cabins, completely exhausted from our long horseback ride. The next morning was spent loading up the horses and making the ride back down to the lake to head back to our main cabin on Laslui Lake. With our hunt now complete it was great to relax at base camp and rest our sore knees from the horseback riding and reflect on a great hunt on the Spatsizi Plateau with the best outfitter in British Columbia Collingwood Bros. If you’re looking for a great hunt for Black Bear, Mountain Caribou, Western Canadian Moose, Mountain Goat or Stone Sheep I highly recommend Collingwood Bros. they are first class service start to finish!
By Brian Smith